The Monkey, The Organ Grinder, & the Swift Boating of Van Jones

It's kind of like the organ grinder and the monkey. The guy with the music box gets the monkey to dance and act out for the people. And when huge corporations, media interests, and high-priced consultants unleash desperate distortions on public policy, they get a robust jig and a squeal from right wing reactionaries, hot heads, bigots, and people who don't know enough to know they don't know enough.

The problem is, the Media, and apparently some in the Obama Administration, listen to the monkey.


Van Jones has made an abrupt and indignant departure over an empty outrage, letting Obama sacrifice talent and control of the debate in one reflex. While Jones may well prove more effective on the outside of the tepid D.C. mechanisms, that his departure was prompted by Glenn Beck hysterics sends the misleading message that Glenn Beck actually matters. Regrettably, resignation signifies an acknowledgment of impropriety. The right wing parrots refer to it as a scandal, but nothing has actually happened.

This manufactured Van Jones controversy was alternately marketed as "What is this Czar title, anyway, and why is a Russian king ruling our government? That's Communist!" Lost on the clap-traps might be that the title of czar dates back to Nixon and was popularized by Reagan. These are the embittered and disaffected looking to argue over anything, constructing justification for their displaced anger, as opposed to looking for truth.

The other non-troversy came in a speech where Jones referred to Republicans as "assholes" in the way they successfully managed to pass legislation. He also suggested he could be an asshole, i.e., effective. Though this was meant as the same observational truth as in "the assholes always get the girls," it was seized upon like red meat by jackals. No matter if the Vice President can tell a Senator to go fuck himself on the floor of the Senate without rebuke, or the fact that overreacting and feigning outrage to try to get a guy fired really is kind of an asshole thing to do. Jones has so far failed at living up to this, and makes a lousy asshole, and will probably not be scoring with the cheerleaders, some of which he certainly could have used for the past month.

The other tacked-on outrage was that Van Jones had signed a petition supporting further investigation of 9/11. A petition demanding truth about 9/11 is hardly a controversy, and it shouldn't be. As The Dude (Jeff Bridges) yells at Walter (John Goodman) in The Big Lebowski: "What does anything have to do with Vietnam?" The same could be said today about 9/11, to Truthers, to Freepers, to Rudy Giuliani. This point is not even debated, it's like Van Jones knows the profile of harassment. If it's not this, it will be something else. Is your vehicle registered? Are these headlights up to code? Is that brake light dimmer than the other one?

Of course, there is more to this abrupt umbrage about Van Jones than some petition or profanity. As Adele M. Stan details at AlterNet, Van Jones is a threat because of the entrenched industrial opposition against green jobs. Noticeably, this attack on Jones has been unrelated to Van Jones actual performance, obscuring that Jones was at the White House to create millions of jobs in the midst of recession.

Predictably, the right wing chatterbox has crowed over Van Jones's departure, as surprised as anyone that their complaining has actually resulted in anything. This is a Pyrrhic victory, delighting trolls who get to write "HA!" and "I'm driving my low MPG truck to show Van Jones." This Administration -- at least the few progressives within it not driven to placate business interests -- is trying to offer health care and environmental conservation not just for all Americans today, but for generations of Americans to come. This costly din and derision of partisan patricide is far more destructive than foreign enemies.

There is another irony lost on the harpies so quick to clamor for accountability for things real or imagined, from the past, present, or future. The very point of public office is that the public can demand accountability. Government officials are ultimately responsible to the public.

On the other hand, private companies can do whatever they want, as long as their shareholders are happy. And they can lie. They can say their product does not kill people when they know it does. And they can keep that vital information confidential under trade secret protections, endangering the public. And individual executives are almost universally unaccountable in corporate crime. Vioxx. Monsanto. Enron. Goldman Sachs. Philip Morris. Etc.

Despite considerably more attention and infamy, does Erik Prince step down from Blackwater (Xe), particularly now that he has been implicated in the murder of potential whistle-blowers? Erik Prince would tell you to go his idea of a Christian Medieval hell, he owns all of Blackwater, he inherited his millions to go play war games, and no one can figure out what court in the world to even try his crimes in. Till then, he will keep getting new contracts with the U.S. State Department.

Corporations only answer to government when government demands it. Unfortunately, the demanding is usually done by politicians who have to run for re-election and could always use some more contributors. In light of the Supreme Court mulling over corporate monies into our elections, I believe we are approaching a new debate on campaign reform that will expose more people to how beholden our elected officials are.

Thus, this is another circumstance where the ranting righties who have crusaded against any government role in anything presume that same transparency and entitlement that they would be denying themselves in every other role of society, and doing it self-righteously. That you even have a right to call for his resignation proves the main advantage to administration by elected officials.

These are the same people who get inflamed that the President of our country would offer a broadcast message to welcome students back to school. Fears were repeated and escalated that Obama would indoctrinate all children into socialism if they were exposed to even minutes of hearing him speak, like he isn't on TV every day already. Something that could be motivating to children who do not subscribe to a two party mindset was politicized to preposterous ends by people desperate for credibility while devoid of ideas.

If you are afraid that your child will abandon all that you hold sacred after a couple minutes of a grown up explaining something about government on a TV, then you have no freaking control over your kid anyway, and probably never will.

Personally, if this is a public education that I am paying for with my tax dollars, I for one would like a celebrity cameo from the government to show some effort, a little pizazz, like a fancy in-flight video.

These people are scaring their kids with made up ideas of Obama, and they don't know what he would say because they never even listen to him. They don't have to listen to anything, they know they don't trust him, because they have heard so much about what a socialist he is, and even though they don't know what that means, it must be bad, because the white people on FOX keep yelling and crying about it. And the kids grow up thinking the same thing without questioning, and the disconnect proliferates.

This cuts to the heart of the problems we face in instituting such basic government services as health care and sustainable development. When there is so much disinformation -- literally, one of the biggest industries in America is mass-producing mistruths and distortions, and it is owned by Rupert Murdoch -- there will thrive a chronic disconnect in society.

Where the Obama team was the Marketer of the Year in 2008, this year they have less marketing muscle than the crude new Melrose Place. Obama mistakenly believed that upon entering the White House, people would listen to him just because he was president, or something. No matter how well Jackie Robinson played, he had to face the cruelest critics the most often. Obama is still the subject of prejudiced suspicion, both racial and cultural, but amplified to near mythic proportions of being a Marxist dictator, without having done anything (almost literally) at all.

The Big Tent is a fallacy, and there will never be any participation from a dedicated segment of society that is committed to vitriol and tearing down that tent at all costs.

This deference to disapproval, acquiescence to any angry and aimless mob, it is far more respect and legitimacy than they would return in kind at the sign of offense. These are people who for the most part hide behind screen names while demanding to personally inspect the long form documentation of our President's birth, so that they can find other reasons to complain either way.

This is the base that Van Jones is worried about distracting from health care reform? We need to draw their fire. Van should blare the new Jay-Z on the Front Lawn of the White House while planting acorns to freak out the Ditto heads while the grown ups meet inside and stop posturing over talking points, like their lowest denominator is watching. The rabble-rousers will rabble on, regardless.

To that end, perhaps what is needed is to offer fodder to inflate the self-preoccupation of that right-wing shark-osphere.

Where the signs typically say, "Do Not Toss Items to the Monkey," this is where to start. Feed the monkey peanuts, cotton candy, popcorn to gobble down. Throw it gossip, confusing riddles, internal strife, distraction. Give them more chew toys to tire themselves out with. Wave shiny things in front of their wide, eager eyes. Delude them with relevancy and mock them as the alienated, small-minded, insecure, intolerant sociopaths that they are. We need rope, lots of it, to let them hang themselves in their xenophobic obsessions.

Because what won't deter them is shame. There is no shame to these hacks like Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Tom DeLay, and their cadre. Beyond cultural bias, this is an automatic opposition to anything that could be successful. Seeking to earn the approval or inclusion of this deluded minority is ruinous. It offers easy exploitation from predatory industries that have long proven their disregard for American citizens in the interest of profits.